Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Progressing to Bodyweight Plyometrics

If you are a strength and conditioning coach, you know that power matters. Plyometrics, Olympic lifting and medicine ball throws probably are used in some form in your athletes’ programs.

But, what about your adult clients? Did you know that adults need power training as much or more than athletes? Adults are losing strength and power as they age, however power is lost at a much faster rate. In fact, it’s almost twice as fast. (1.7 to be exact). What does that mean in numbers? It means that if you are losing 10% of your strength you would lose 17% of your power? When you double that loss (20 and 34%) you can see how the loss of power is quickly magnified.

So, does that mean we want to get our adult clients doing box jumps and Olympic lifting? Probably not. There is a little concept we call risk-reward or, risk-benefit. The risk of adults starting a plyometric program or trying to learn to Olympic lift may outweigh the reward? Obviously, you are going to have some adult clients that are fit and healthy and simple plyometric exercises may be fine for them.

But what about older clients, or overweight clients? How do we help these folks stop the loss of power and in fact begin to regain it?

To do this we need to defeat our big enemy, gravity. The combination of body mass and gravity can create some real problems when training older clients, overweight clients or clients that combine the two (older and overweight). We need to find a way to get these folks to move with speed but, safely. We need to find a way to reduce both weight and gravity.


Sounds a little bit like a high school science experiment, doesn’t it? We can obviously reduce weight with diet but, that takes time. We can fight gravity by gaining strength, particularly in the lower body, but that also takes time.

Thankfully, there are two tools on the market that do in fact allow us to move with speed using loads less than bodyweight. One is the Total Gym Jump Trainer, the other is the MVP Shuttle. Having at least one of these pieces in your facility is essential if you are going to be training adult clients or, doing any type of rehab work.

The two pieces are somewhat similar. Both appear at first glance to be some version of a leg press machine but, they are far more than that. Both pieces actually allow horizontal jumping in an environment that reduces the effect of gravity.  Both also incorporate elastic bands to create resistance. For years, the MVP Shuttle was the only commercial grade piece that allowed jumping in a gravity reduced environment. Total Gym has recently entered the field with a commercial piece that has a few features not present in the MVP Shuttle.  The Total Gym Jump Trainer allows the user to move from a horizontal position toward a more vertical position.   Load can be strictly bodyweight and increased by changing the incline of the machine or, elastic bands can be added in each position. The Total Gym adjusts toward the vertical to increase the percentage of bodyweight being used.

The Total Gym Jump Trainer (as assembled for fitness) begins at 46 % at the lowest angle of 20 degrees and then adjusts up in 7 increments topping out at 78% of bodyweight at an angle of 36 degrees.  Assembled for rehab it begins at 27 % at the lowest angle of 12 degrees and then adjusts up in 7 increments topping out at 66% of bodyweight at an angle of 30 degrees. Up to 70 lbs of bungee can be added to any of these levels.

The Shuttle instead remains basically horizontal and increases resistance via the elastic bands.

The result in both cases is that a rehab client, an older adult or an overweight client can begin to jump with loads far less than bodyweight.

Both the MVP Shuttle and the Total Gym Jump Trainer can also be used in a rehab setting to introduce single leg plyometrics to injured clients and athletes. In fact the application of both pieces is probably more limited by the imagination of the coach or trainer than by the machine itself.  An athlete returning from an ACL injury can begin jumps or hops far sooner when one of these pieces are used than would be possibly with bodyweight as the load.

Although I would not consider myself a machine person, I would go so far as to tell you that one of these two tools is an essential machine for every facility.  If you have adult clients, young clients or rehab clients I would encourage you to “test drive” one of these two pieces.

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Agility Ladder, Speed Ladder, Warm-up Ladder

I’m not sure what prompts people to write the things that they do but, periodically the old “ladders are useless” post pops up on Facebook or Twitter. I need to be honest, if you think getting good at ladder drills makes you quicker or more agile, you are probably wrong. However, if you think ladders are useless and a waste of time, you are definitely wrong. Ladders are great for kids as they can help improve coordination and brain-muscle connections. For higher level athletes they are simply a great tool for multi-planar warm-up.

Take a second and read this article I wrote for my site a few years ago:

A couple of threads on the forum got me thinking about the question of foot speed and athletes. I can’t tell you how often I hear a parent or a coach ask, “How can I improve my son’s/daughter’s/ athlete’s foot speed or agility?” It seems everyone always wants the shortcut and the quick fix. The better question might be “Do you think you can improve foot speed?” or maybe even the larger question, “Does foot speed even matter?”

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


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Monday, December 21, 2015


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Are Box Jumps Even Plyometrics?

Box jumping has been the subject of the week. I’m amazed that a simple post could generate so much interest. The truth is that box jumps are just that, a jumping exercise. They lack the reactive component that distinguishes a plyometric exercise from just jumping. Here’s an article that will get you thinking and learning about plyometric training.

Plyometric Training

Numerous articles have been written about plyometric training for athletes. Very few have detailed progressive programs that take into account the need for a system of training that can be applied to a broad range of athletes. Although the works of Chu, Radcliffe and Gambetta were outstanding at the time of their writing, very little has been written in the last ten years that connects our current knowledge of functional training with how to design and implement a system of plyometric exercises. In order to fully understand plyometrics, we must look at basics like terminology, volume and frequency.


The first area that needs to be addressed in the area of plyometric training is terminology. The language of plyometrics must be universal so that any coach or athlete can view the program of any other coach or athlete and understand the exercises without photos or video. The discrepancies in terminology were first brought to my attention by Mike Clark of the National Academy of SportsMedicine. Clark pointed out in a 2000 lecture that many coaches currently used names to describe plyometric exercises that were not properly descriptive of the movement. Clark went on to detail the types of exercises and the specific actions:

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Sunday, December 20, 2015


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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Being Smart About Your Child’s Brain

By FRANK BRUNI from NYT Opinion

Friday, December 18, 2015


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The Hack Test

THE HACK TEST: To Hack or To Adopt the Culture

Tim Ferriss is all about the lifehack, and he’s had great success at it (and been very fun to watch in the process). He gets us thinking about possibilities . . .

Ferriss books-4 hour-lifehack

As we seek to make changes in our lives—in our health and fitness, what is a test to see if a hack is appropriate or inappropriate?

In an emergency situation, I would say “anything goes.” In a situation of long-term physical development, I would say it should be done if the hack supports both independence and sustainability.



In The Story of the Human Body, Daniel Lieberman writes that, though human evolution is potentially at a standstill, humans continue to evolve by creating evolutionary culture. The culture that shapes human beings is what evolves first.

Maybe the things that change culture are hacks and the ones that stick become cultural wisdom. The ones that don’t are the shortcuts that we seem to master in the west—the ones that don’t seem to be sustainable.  We don’t seem to be able to maintain them independently.

For some reason, the best hacks in the world take us closer to both economy and ecology—those things that are extremely efficient and have a fair exchange of value, and those things that also support a harmonious balance over long periods of time without exploiting either side of the equation, the organism or the environment.



In Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes, Christopher McDougall has given us two opportunities to see that culture might be the best way to approach something as simple as running and/or something as complex as becoming a hero.

Simon Sinek has warned us to always Start With Why. Many of the things we do culturally just seem to work.  Why we do something is often because it is a thing that will occur whether we intend it or not. When it does occur, it is so profound it becomes part of our culture. We don’t necessarily even identify its impact. We do it because we do it.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of metrics, we’ve become a culture that loves tests and their accompanying numbers. The problem is that we’re shortsighted and teach to the tests.  We directly confront blood pressure and cholesterol with drugs that make pharmaceutical companies rich and continue to not solve your problems. They simply cover your symptoms . . . pain management, not cure.

To create independence and sustainability with cholesterol and blood pressure, first, make sure that these measurements mean something and second, find a culture that rarely has problems with either.  If we apply that simple litmus test to whether we should hack something or not, then when it is time to develop a hack, maybe there’s already a recipe that keeps us from wasting time.

In my attempt to improve both movement health and movement function, I came up with some principles that seem not to just apply to movement but to almost any behavior. Move well always comes before move often. A minimum level of quality should probably precede pursuits of quantity. Anything you do ceases to have value if a minimum standard is not met.

When would this quality requirement be inappropriate? First is a situation where long-term sustainability is not necessary and quantity has a significant value regardless of quality, but these opportunities may be few and far between.

What if you are thirsty? There is a point where water quality can be so poor that it would actually behoove you to avoid that water source because you will experience a greater decline in your health by drinking poison than by going another 10 hours without water.


The second is human intervention. Hippocrates, the famous Greek physician, warned us to “do no harm.”

In our enthusiasm to step between the organism and the environment and say “Let me teach you. Let me train you. Let me coach you. Let me help you heal,” those of us who teach, coach, train and attempt to facilitate healing should heed Hippocrates’ advice.

Sometimes, our enthusiasm clouds the big picture. If we’re focusing on metrics, we may strive to improve one biomarker while creating side effects and erosion elsewhere in the human system.

That’s why most drug commercials (the ones that tell you that you absolutely need their product) have two benefits and 35 pitfalls.  It’s not natural, it’s not independent and it’s not sustainable. You could not derive that drug on your own.  It is not given freely. You cannot be independent.

If you’re poor, you can’t afford it. If you’re not a chemist, you can’t engineer it.  However, it’s great business and that’s the company aspect of pharmaceutical companies.

Healthcare and fitness are not immune to this shortsightedness. We find biomarkers in healthcare. We find biomarkers in fitness. Without focus, we fail to understand the entire cultural embrace that changes these markers.

Our educational system is a prime example. We came up with Standards of Learning (SOL testing – or whatever your state’s equivalent may be) to ensure that teachers were doing their job and to identify children who were not functioning at proper levels despite effective teachers.  Basically, the SOL gives us a gauge.

If all the children in the class are not making the standard, the focus should probably be on the teacher. If a certain percentage of the children in the class make the standard but some don’t, the focus should probably then be on the individual student.  Sounds simple, right?


The problem is that so many teachers have been limited and handcuffed by this new style of analysis of quality that many simply submit and teach to the test.

Physicians, trainers and coaches are sometimes no different. We find the one standard that seems to dictate our success and instead of creating a culture that gets there anyway, we create a shortcut. We take our machete and hack a path.

That path may require high levels of maintenance. It may be unsustainable. It may not teach life lessons or create independence in those people we’re trying to develop and help.

In short, we should try to find biomarkers that both cause and correlate those things that we prize in culture—the ability to exist in harmony with our environments and to live a long, healthy and happy life.

Hopefully, these caveats are self-evident. But all too often, it seems they are not: when we try to gain a competitive advantage, it can only be done for a short time. Rarely can it be done and sustained for a long time—the same way we don’t always see success transfer through generations.

Those very qualities and behaviors that could make a parent unbelievably successful by societal standards may make their children choose behaviors in exact opposition. Remember, that which makes us successful in one aspect of our life could actually be borrowing equity from another part of our life.

So, if there is such a thing as hacking and if it is good, hacking is simply working your way through a maze. If there is a shortcut, then use it if your life is threatened and if time is of the essence. If you discover a shortcut in other circumstances, it might be better to heed the warning that many shortcuts lead to pitfalls, and often, the detour—the long way around—is the safest.


Testing creates detours. Testing simply provides metrics and the opportunity to see or predict failure at the next level. If you can’t pass the eleventh grade, there is a significant statistical chance that you will not find success in the twelfth grade.

If we look at tests as windows into the future and use them accordingly, then we wouldn’t necessarily teach to the tests. We would simply want to adopt a culture that was independently sustainable that got us to the next level.

Now, if it takes a little longer than you want or if it’s a little risky, that’s where human intervention comes in. The job of the teacher, coach or even somebody who’s helping you heal is not to do it better than the natural environment could do these things for you. That said, in every situation we should ask “can these things be done with less risk and with greater economy? Can they be done faster and safer?”

There is a natural cycle of things that requires both qualitative and quantitative balance. A little extra is sometimes what’s afforded and a little less is sometimes what you get.  Human intervention, because of our very short timelines, is focused at success. But nature simply says that non-failure is the best option, especially if tomorrow is in play.

If the physical hack test works for you in your own life on your own body, maybe it can be applied to things like diet, work, relationships, recreational pursuits and lifelong goals.

When the terms independence and sustainability are used, it does not imply that you do not continue to have teachers or learning opportunities. It means that you are self-sufficient at learning.  Sustainability speaks to long-term movement development.


Obviously, we can never be completely independent and nothing is sustainable forever but the higher levels of independence and the greater rate of sustainability are indicators that the culture is the best environment for adaptation and long-term movement development.

Remember, Lieberman says that the reason we’re evolving is because our culture has evolved and then those things evolve us. When development is inefficient, not ecological or not impressive, it’s an indication that the culture is not beneficial and has not evolved in the correct direction.

Let’s look for efficient and ecological development. Let’s explore those cultures.


Click here to learn more about Three Principles you Can Apply to Any Movement

Gray Cook & Greg Rose Three Principles Video

Or check out the Principles Digital Bundle

from Gray Cook, Physical Therapist, Lecturer, Author

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Walter J. Leonard, Pioneer of Affirmative Action in Harvard Admissions, Dies at 86

By SAM ROBERTS from NYT Education

Another Long Lakers Goodbye, This One by Kobe Bryant



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Great Stuff From the Guys at Changing the Game Project

I DID NOT WRITE THIS. It is from the guys at Changing the Game Project. However, I do agree. My daughter went from town sports, to a select hockey team at 12 to a full college scholarship at 15. What these guys say works. My daughter did not play in a summer hockey tournament until the week before her 13th birthday. She had never been to Canada to play etc. However, she had excelled at town hockey, town soccer, and local summer swimming and diving. In addition, she had won a state judo championship. My 10 year old son plays hockey, baseball, lacrosse, flag football and rec basketball. Most of these are very inexpensive and provide great fun and great competition.

5 Ways Youth Sports gets the Math All Wrong

1.Youth Sports Costs Way Too Much, Way Too Soon: We are creating barriers to entry to sports that should have very few. Soccer, for example, needs a round object and some space to play. Instead, we have tryouts, “elite” clubs and travel teams for 6-7 year olds. Author Mark Hyman phrases it perfectly in the title of his great book about the cost of youth sports, The Most Expensive Game in Town. It costs thousands of dollars plus travel for some kids to play a sport that could almost be free. I am not saying that tryouts, travel, and high-level, long distance competition do not have a place in the game, but not before age 12 at the earliest. Local play and town leagues are disappearing. And worst, we have ramped up the pressure on parents to pay, coaches to produce, and kids to perform. As former NFL punter turned college professor Travis Dorsch has found in his research, our kids are acutely aware of the money we spend on sports, and it adds pressure, and takes away enjoyment for them.
2. Youth Sports Makes Poor Use of Our Kids’ Time (and Ours): Let’s compare the average day of pickup games/free play to today’s hyper-organized sporting scene. In other words, lets look at the return on investment in time.
In a pickup/free play environment, a child might walk 10 minutes on a Saturday to the park or pond to meet with friends. They organize teams and play, taking breaks every once in a while to change teams, get a drink, eat, etc. Six hours later, the child goes home. His 6.5 hour investment yields about 5.5 hours of child directed sport.
Now take our highly organized environment. A child gets in the car at 9am, and drives ninety minutes to his travel game. He arrives a minimum of one hour prior to kickoff, and a warm up commences 30 minutes prior to game time. He plays a 60 minute game, and for arguments sake he plays 40 minutes (a hockey team with 3 lines might yield 20 minutes of play or less with a coach who does not think every kid needs to play.) The coach/team spends 30 minutes changing and debriefing after the game, the player grabs a bite to eat, and he arrives home two hours later. A 5.5 hour investment of time, for one hour of play.
In a nutshell, instead of spending the vast majority of his day at play, making rules, calling fouls, playing fearlessly, and involved in self-directed learning, our kids spend most of it in a car (and so do we). We pay a lot more for a lot less time on task.
3. Ratio of Games vs. Training: Games and competitive matches certainly have their place, but our overemphasis on competition, especially at the youngest ages, is detrimental on two fronts.
First, our current environment yields a ratio of one game for one practice in many sports, which is not ideal. A well run hour of baseball practice might get every player a few dozen swings, and dozens of attempts at throwing, catching and fielding. A one-hour game might see him get 8-10 swings, and depending upon position, 3-10 additional touches of the ball. I cannot think of a sport where an athlete does not get more reps in training. Yet, at the critical ages of development, where kids need as many touches and attempts as possible, we are choosing to play competitive games that give them very few, instead of practice that will help develop technical mastery. Why do we play so many games? According to former NBA player turned youth sports advocate Bob Bigelow, “Adults want to win; kids want to play. That’s the difference. The more adult needs you add to these sports, the more adult vision, the more adult needs have to be met.”
Second, and I think this is critical; our massive emphasis on tournament play is developing slow players. Three-time World Cup soccer coach Raymond Verheijan, one of the world’s experts on periodization, training and injury prevention, first stated this idea to me. “Think about it,” he said. “In your first tournament game, everyone plays full speed, 100%. But your second game of the day, you are at 90% because of fatigue. Your third and fourth game of the weekend, you are at 80% speed. If you make the final, everyone is tired, sore, carrying injuries, and playing 70-80% of full speed. Not only are your players increasingly susceptible to injury, but in four out of your five games, they have played at a slower speed due to fatigue. Your players are rarely playing at maximum pace or making maximum decisions per minute. In a mental game like soccer, they are learning over and over to play slowly.”
4. The Age of Specialization is Way Too Young: I have written articles on this subject, and the book “Is it Wise to Specialize” so if you want more on this topic click the links. Until there is compelling science, and not simply outlier, one-in-a million examples like “look at Tiger” to show that early specialization is a better path for player development, I believe the science shows that the multi-sport pathway prior to age 12 gives your child the best chance of long term success. Outside of female figure skating and gymnastics, playing a single sport prior to the age of 12, especially when it is the decision of the parent or coach, and not the athlete, only serves to decrease ownership, enjoyment and intrinsic motivation, while increasing the risk of burnout and injury. Let your kids play multiple sports, and help them find their passion instead of trying to determine it for them.
5. Talk About College Sports Starts Too Young: As evident by the letter I received from the mom quoted above, too many coaches and parents are talking about scholarships at an age they should be talking about love of the game and developing excellence. As the mom noted, her daughter had no idea what she wanted to study, where she wanted to go to school, and likely had been to very few college campuses, yet she was being told “commit soon or else.” I have yet to meet a college coach, especially on the women’s side where the problem seems exacerbated, that likes this current system of evaluating and recruiting middle schoolers, and committing scholarships to kids 3-5 years before they will ever step on campus. Yet they also feel powerless to stop. As a result, we have a generation of college athletes heading to schools that are not the best fit, majoring in subjects they have little interest in, and transferring at a very high rate.
Its time to get the math right in youth sports. don’t you think? Here are a few steps to do so that will make it better for our kids, and better for the adults as well:
Do not force, or be forced, into having your child specialize too early. The evidence supports a multi-sport pathway.
Have your child play one sport per season, and play it with full effort and commitment.
Do not be in a hurry to get on the team that travels the farthest, or collects all the best players as soon as possible. Save your money and time until your child’s ability and desire demands it, and your family and finances can support it. Performance prior to puberty is not a great indicator of performance after it.
Find local free play opportunities, take your child and friends to the park, and let them play. Have your kids play futsal, or 3v3, do tumbling and martial arts, and build those hours on task through more efficiently through child-centered fun.
Look for quality of competition, not just quantity. Don’t be mesmerized by the coach that tells you about all the games they play, and all the tournaments they go to. Find a coach and club that talks about how much they practice, and how much every player gets to play and how they develop on their own time frame.
Stop talking about college sports too soon. Worry about your child becoming a good player, and developing a burning desire to play. College sports are hard, and demand a ton of time;, if sport is a job and not a passion, they won’t make it. Yes, some schools and sports want early commitments, but they also want great players. If your child is good, and patient, chances are she will find a school that is a much better fit then one she was in a hurry to commit to 3-4 years prior.
Let’s hit the reset button, and get the math right. Let’s start investing our precious time wisely, and our precious dollars in the right things, and at the right time. We can make the math work.
Our kids need us to.

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